Gift Shops are Expensive: AVOID!
To make this outing extra special for my train enthusiast toddlers (and cheaper for me!) requires a little planning and creativity. First and foremost, I absolutely refuse to buy over priced gift shop items and I can only imagine what kind of mark up an already over priced Thomas toy will have on it and how much The Kyle will want to have one. To solve this problem required some creative shopping. Craig's List is a great place to start! Look at all those ads to find some little train toys in great condition. Amazon.com has some great cheap off brand wooden train toys. Kohl's does not sell the wooden type of Thomas toys but they sell the die cast version and sometimes with sales combined with coupons you can get one for under 4 dollars. You can score a good deal on Ebay if you are vigilant. Or there is Half Price Books, which is where I went. HPB does not sell toys but they do sell DVD's and my HPB had brand new DVD's that come with a wooden Thomas character. Combined with these coupons I got two DVDs and two wooden train toys for 9 bucks.
No matter where your once-in-a-year-outing is to if you are in the habit of buying gift shop toys (or breaking down when your kids beg and ask nicely -----> me!) then save yourself some $$$ and buy an appropriate gift a head of time.Wrap it up and make is special. Give it to them in the car that way there isn't too much fuss when it's time to go home.
Get into the Fun!
Trains are a lot of fun and to make this experience even more exciting for my little dudes customized conductor hats! These hats came from the Target dollar section! I simply sewed the boys' first initials to the hat, a little fusible interface and a zig-zag stitch. Remember those 5-minuet pirate costumes I made a while back? I took the due rags and now they are scarfs for my little train conductors! Add train whistles that we already had and now we have little conductor outfits! Perfect for riding the Thomas train.
Plan! Plan! Plan!
Make sure you have enough time to get where you are going, you know where you are going and you know the parking situation. I was born directionally challenged. 95% of the time I have no idea where I am headed or which direction I am going. I have learned to print out the map the night before and stick it in the diaper bag right there and then. There is nothing worse than trying to print out a map while the kids are clambering to go. Pack that bag the night before, pack that lunch the night before, that way you are ready to bolt when the time comes.
Make sure those little ones have had a good meal before you leave the house. Something high in protein low in sugar content. This will keep their little attitudes happier and therefore YOU happier! Because kids are kids, bring a snack and something to drink so you don't want to get suckered into buying the more expensive food at the event and waiting in line with hungry young ones.
That is how I keep my sanity and my money safe with two toddlers under 3 and still have some fun. =D